Another decluttering book? (2 minute read)

Guest Post by Tilo Flache on his new book about Tilo Flache ClutterMeister.jpghow to stop the clutter at its source.

Ever since Marie Kondo has turned her ideas into a major success with several books and even a Netflix show, decluttering is on everybody’s mind … or so it seems. I come across a good number of people who refer to her book or the show, but a large portion of the population still haven’t even heard the term decluttering.

This is surprising with all the magazine articles and books that are out there. However, most of them focus on the self-help aspect of decluttering, suggesting that the reader herself (yes: they appear to be mostly women, indeed) make work of their own decluttering efforts and get it done on their own. Beyond that, there is precious little scientific writing on the subject of clutter, and most of it is squarely lodged in the areas of psychology and therapy, or looking at the health and safety aspects of a cluttered space.

On top of that it has to be said that the issue of clutter is usually seen as problem to be dealt with by removing the superfluous from our surroundings. It occurred to me that this approach may be trying to tackle the problem too late in the game. Most people only become aware of clutter when it has already reached a point where it severely effects their wellbeing and taking care of it is already a major undertaking.

Whatever reasons you may come up with to keep yourself from shedding some of the load, none of them are easy to overcome. So why not look at what makes you accumulate ever more, and limit your intake to begin with? Why don’t you simply stop the flood at the source rather than dealing with the consequences? This sounds like a good idea before clutter accumulates as well as when you have already started dealing with the surplus.

But first of all you’ll need to understand the constant pressure you are under from advertising, your own expectations, real or imaginary obligations to conform to your peers and the tricks of the retail business, to name but a few. The best way to become resilient to the influences at work on your conscious and subconscious mind is to become aware of the tricks and mechanisms used by the sales machinery.

That is exactly the approach I have taken with “Promise Broken. Moving On.” I have decided to look at the connection between advertising, consumerism and the accumulation of things we possess and fill our homes with. The book holds up a mirror and shows you how exactly this affects you and everyone else. Ask yourself – and be brutally honest – are you like a moth to the light, or are you able to resist the attraction and fly the other way?

If you are interested in the book, please use this link ( and check it out on Amazon.

Tilo Flache – ClutterMeister, Brighton – look for “cluttermeister” on facebook, twitter and YouTube

Meet a minimalist (4 minute read)




In my quest for a simpler life I’m always fascinated by people who’ve not just talked about living with less but actually followed it through.

I’ve recently been introduced to Holly Mitchell, a 24 year-old buyer (ironically) and writer, who lives in Leeds. She and her fiancé Ben are proud minimalists. 



Here’s a little chat I had with Holly:

So tell me about your minimalist journey?

Minimalism has completely changed our lives over the past two years. When Ben and I first moved in together we lived in a three bedroom house – purely to accommodate the sheer volume of stuff I’d accumulated over a lifetime!

In truth, I was a hoarder. I had wardrobes filled with clothes all over the house, walls lined with bookcases and every visible shelf was packed with trinkets. Fast forward to now – we’ve got rid of around 90-95% of our possessions (either sold, donated or given away) and live in a zero-bedroom flat.

holly's home

It hasn’t been an easy road… The process was long, gruelling and, at times, seemed never-ending. But I wouldn’t change a thing – we’re happier, living more consciously and free from the trap of consumerism.

What inspired you?

A random article on the internet about people living out of backpacks first peaked my interest and then it just all went from there. One day, we had an ‘aha!’ moment. From there, we knew we couldn’t continue how we were.

What difference has it made?

Minimalism has allowed me to strip back to the basics, reassess my life and focus my energy on what really makes me happy. It was eye-opening to re-examine my relationship with my material possessions. I found out that I kept and hung onto things ‘just in case’ I may need them later.

Now, I make active choices about what I bring into my home. I also don’t really have the urge to buy anything anymore. Everything I own serves a specific purpose and that’s brought a sense of calmness to my life. Until we started getting rid of our things, I didn’t realise the impact being surrounded by clutter had taken on my mental health.

As we minimalised and cleared our space, I felt like a weight was being lifted. I’m less anxious, have more time to focus on hobbies and, with less choice, it’s a lot quicker to get ready in the mornings too!

It is possible to do an inventory of your house?

100%! At the height of our decluttering, I felt overwhelmed and like I was drowning in stuff – I would never want to get into that position again.

I’ll use my kitchen as an example – we basically have two of everything – one for each of us. For example, we have: 2x small plates, 2x cereal bowls, 2x pasta bowls, 2x tumblers, 2x wine glasses and 2x mugs. We have 3 large plates – just in case we break or need an extra one.

We don’t really have the space to entertain guests and we socialise outside the house so our minimal tableware has never been an issue. If we were to ever host a big Christmas dinner, we’re not opposed to asking people to bring their own.

If we move into somewhere bigger, we may look at upgrading to 4 of each but we’re happy as we are for the time being.

What did you let go of first?

Clothes. In total, I donated or sold around 40 bin bags of clothing, shoes and bags.

his & her wardrobeI hate seeing waste and it upsets me how fast fashion is making the clothes we wear almost disposable. When I do buy clothes I opt for second-hand and support ethical and sustainable brands where possible. While I don’t own many items of clothing anymore (around 20 garments) I try to buy versatile pieces and have created a capsule wardrobe around them.

Did you find anything hard to let go of?

I was absolutely adamant about keeping every one of my books when we started. As a real bibliophile I got great satisfaction from seeing a stacked bookcase in a room. However, as we got rid of more things, my mindset began to shift. I realised that I rarely re-read anything and the books were taking unnecessary space.

I ended up reducing my collection from 250 books to only 15 of my favourites. As more months passed I got rid of all of them entirely; I invested in a Kindle and support our local libraries instead.

Do you now miss anything?

Weirdly, no!

What lessons have your learnt?

‘Things’ are not responsible for your happiness (sorry, advertising companies,,,) – you are.

I think there’s also real truth to the old saying about the ‘tidy house, tidy mind.’

Do you live by any rules in terms of how to live?

We live simply and look for the value in non-material things. It’s always good to take time out to be grateful for what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t and comparing yourself to others.

Since downsizing and no longer spending money on things we don’t need, we’ve adopted a much more frugal lifestyle. This has helped us to save for a house deposit and a wedding – both will be minimalistic, of course!

What is your goal?

We don’t have any plans to change our lifestyle.

holly & fianceWe’re getting married in a few months. It’ll be a small casual do – nothing fancy and definitely no white dress. All we care about is having the people we love there to celebrate and good food. Over the next year, I’d like to get more involved in the zero-waste movement too.

How do others react to your lifestyle choice?

Some people are intrigued but most struggle to accept it (I mean, who doesn’t want to buy stuff?!) or they find it very extreme. At the start, I think both our families thought we were depriving ourselves or just super skint but they’ve got used to it now. Christmas and birthdays can be awkward times of the year, but friends and family now accept and respect our choices such as our ‘edible-only’ gift policy last year.

What advice would you give to other aspiring minimalists?

Minimalism means different things to different people so don’t compare yourself to others. I know that our approach and that (basically) living in one room will not be for everyone, but I do think that most people could benefit in a small way from decluttering – even if it’s just organising that kitchen drawer filled with random junk!

I’d also advise people to really question whether they need something before buying it. By doing this you’ll end up saving money and it’ll stop you from bringing useless stuff into your home.

When decluttering things will probably get worse before they get better but DON’T GIVE UP. It’s a tough road and definitely isn’t a quick fix but the effort will be worth it in the end.

Trust me, you won’t regret it.

If you’re interested in frugal living and want more info on Holly & Ben’s minimalist journey visit


What do to with cards? (2 minute read)

Many of my clients find it tricky to let go of cards – so hold onto stacks of birthday cards or engagement, wedding, baby, new job, another baby, retirement congratulation cards. They feel guilty about letting them go or have a fantasy ideas about cutting them up and making their own cards – which can happen but don’t let a back log build up.

Well, the intention of a card is to convey a message – and once that message has been conveyed, received, appreciated and mulled over you can let them go.

I’m not saying get rid of every card  – of course keep the really special ones or ones that appeal to your taste. You could place them in a memory box or drawer, or frame them. Wedding or new baby cards could be put in a album – but only if you’re realistic about if you can actually be bothered and honest about if this will really happen.

I once saw a lovely idea where a mother had framed her child’s favourite card from each birthday year – so there was a sort of count up on the child’s wall. I’m not sure it lasted beyond double figures – in terms of the child no longer wanting them up – but it’s a great thing to start if you have a little one.

wooden heart

A few years ago I bought this wooden heart which I wasn’t really sure what to do with. And with a young baby I forgot Valentine’s Day – so I wrote on the heart. Dah dah = Mrs Romance!

I’ve kept up the tradition for the last 13 years. It’s great to look back at where we were as a couple  – babies, moving house, getting a dog and seeming to still quite like each other along the way.

We leave the heart hanging for a few weeks then it gets put away to be rediscovered the following year – though in 2013 we forgot … we must have bee too loved up to remember – or the opposite!




The joy of purging (2 minute read)

Once I’d started on my personal decluttering journey one of my new found pleasures in life was purging.

Yes, using up that last little bit of something, before I replaced it.

I remember how my mum would pour vinegar into the ketchup bottle to help swill out those bits stuck to the side.

There’s a whole movement called Project Panning who rejoice in using up their make-up and sharing pictures of when they ‘hit pan’ – which basically means the bottom of the case, of say a blusher, starts to show through.

panning photos

Followers will only ‘Buy’ when they’ve finally said a proper ‘Bye’ by using up the product. A stricter version is Project 10 Pan Challenge for which you have use up ten products before you buy a new one.

Panners often focus on one product, such as a body butter, and use it up rather than having half a dozen on the go.

I think the same thinking can be applied to everything we consume.

It’s weird but when I’ve found I’ve given my children too much choice they demand more choice. Take breakfast cereals – half eaten packets of Shreddies, Weetabix, Rice Crispies, Multigrain Shapes, and Strawberry Crunch would take up loads of room   on the shelves feeling insulted when my girls said they didn’t like any of them. Now I give my daughters the choice of two. And I refuse to replace either until one is finished. The girls have quit whinging.

It’s so tempting to stock pile these days, with 2 for 1 offers, which can be great money savers but do ask yourself if you really need it or if you’re buying it as someone is giving you a gentle push. And actually have room to store it?

I believe bulk buying can be a great way to save money (and the environment if it means less packaging) but it has to be planned and not done on a whim otherwise you’ll find yourself buried in loo roll and choking on Cheerios.

So take stock of what you have, by gathering duplicates into one place (from jam to sun tan lotion) and promise to only BUY until you’ve said BYE. It’s satisfying and your bank balance will be happy too.


Taking stock (2 minute read)

We’ve all done it as we’ve followed the floor arrows round Ikea. We’re thinking about Swedish Meatballs and mindlessly grab a bag of Bevara clips (the name is Swedish for ‘preserve’), convinced we only have a few left.

kitchen decluttering

But the niggling thought that they’re made of plastic so will take billions of years to degrade so can’t just disintegrate, stopped me buying more on my last visit.

So when I returned home I did a quick 5-minute declutter of THAT  kitchen drawer which holds all the storage stuff like foil, clingfilm, bags and elastic bands. And yes – there they all were – snuffling around at the bottom with the thousands of white wire ties which we never ever use but my husband insists on keeping.

Yes – one of the many pleasures I get from decluttering is it encourages you to take stock.

If you gather all things of a the same category into one place it’s often surprising what you find. Who knew you actually had:

  • 27 rolls of half used sellotape
  • 8 opened but unfinished bottles of suntan lotion which will be out of date next time the sun reappears
  • A gallon of free shampoo and shower gel in 47 little plastic bottles
  • Enough plasters to cover every inch of skin of my 9 year old daughter

Well, it was almost this bad…

These are often items you buy or squirrel away ‘just in case’ you might run out of – as you’ve lost track of what you actually have.

And once you’ve understood you never need to buy another plastic polly pocket again, and you’ve given all the wandering items a designated place TOGETHER,  the purging can begin…

This is another immensely satisfying path to follow on a decluttering journey which I plan to blog about soon.

What have you found you’ve an abundance of in your home?

Why I do what I do (3 minute read)

Last night BBC Radio Manchester were kind enough to invite me on to their Dead Good Show’s Bad Parents Club, with Simone Riley, to talk about decluttering. All the other guests (Hiya – Billy, Lucy and Louise!) put me at ease with their chat and made the process not half as bad as I was expecting. I just hope I didn’t pass on my flu-like lurgy which reared up during the night.

With my past in national print journalism I’m more comfortable asking the questions rather than being put on the spot so inevitably on the drive back home across the moors I started to unhelpfully think about all the things I’d forgotten to say…

One of the questions I feel I could have provided a better written answer for was something along the lines of how did I get into all this? I remember mentioning being an interiors editor and always being fascinated by how people live but I didn’t share that when I’d go and stay with friends and I was ever left to my own devices I’d rearrange their bathrooms or children’s bedrooms…

This is because I really believe in simplifying and helping people live with less – even if this just means putting toiletries away in a bathroom cupboard so there is less visual clutter round a sink.


I love everything about my job from meeting clients to discuss what they want to achieve (after all everyone has a different threshold so it’s not up to me to dictate what that should be) to restocking and arranging my work bags (is that really sad? Who else used to love packing bags when they were a child too…?)

I was asked if there has been an increase in enquiries since the chatter started about Marie Kondo’s Netflix tidying series.

Well, I think the programme has inspired more people to have a go, with many great success stories being shared on social media but most of the clients I work with are well versed in the theory of decluttering. They’ve read the books and watched the YouTube tutorials but there’s usually some kind of blockage which stops the process. These range from lack of time, energy and focus or simply not knowing where to start. Delayed decisions or not having permission to let something go can also hold people back. Or clients need support in figuring out a practical but simple system for arranging a functional room such as an office or kitchen.

I think people have natural aptitudes towards things and mine is organising. Show me an empty room and hand me a brush and tell me I have cover every surface with paint and I feel overwhelmed, I procrastinate and I never get into the flow or start enjoying it. However present  me a cluttered room and I can’t wait to start reclaiming it and my mind will dart around to figure out which area I’m going to focus on first.

Without sounding New Agey I love reintroducing a new, lighter energy into a space. And once that’s achieved my clients also feel a physical burden lifted from their shoulders. I like to think of it as lovely, warm sigh of relief. It also helps that I take ‘the stuff’ away to be recycled, donated to charity or dropped at the tip rather than it being shifted to another area such as the garage or spare room to fester.

betty cupboard 2

I believe the joy of organising runs in my family as if my wonderful nanna, who lived independently well into her 90s, she was ever short of something to do she’d tidy a cupboard. And this is what my 9 year old daughter does on a rainy Sunday afternoon….







betty cupboard










Here’s link to show if you want to hear me get progressively croakier…

Keeping crafting in check (2 minute read)

karen whole room

Crafting can bring immense pleasure to many people but if not kept in check can create feelings of chaos and overwhelm, as well as gobbling up precious storage space.

With this in my mind I had a chat and cuppa with my lovely neighbour Karen Cunningham, who is a keen knitter, crocheter and contemporary cross-stitcher. Whilst living next door – she’s since moved to Devon (which I won’t take personally) – she was lucky enough to have the luxury of her own craft room. You can check out some of her wonderful creations @marthamini on Instagram.

karen animals

Here are her Top Tips on how to manage and maintain a crafting habit.

  • Do have a level of control – so only buy new yarn when you’ve finished a project.
  • Try to keep your work in progress and planned work separate. It’s good to be able to have your work in progress ready to grab if you know you’ll have the opportunity to work on it when you’re out and about.
  • Be realistic about the time you have to undertake future projects. Karen uses the acronym SABLE – which means – Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy – which put bluntly means will I have time to finish all this before I die?
  • Try to limit your on going projects to two or three – so you can enjoy the satisfaction of actually finishing something. servico karen
  • Be selective about what you buy – there are so many different gadgets but you probably don’t need half of them. If you are tempted borrow one from a friend before purchasing and see if it really does change your life before committing to getting your own.

karen yarn

  • Don’t buy too much wool so find a pattern, then buy the wool – not in the other order. Know your project before you get the equipment which is difficult when there are many so many gorgeous colours, textures and brands now available.
  • Unfollow all the emails for the various wool warehouses who send regular temptation into your Inbox.
  • Try to store patterns digitally by scanning in paper ones but do ask yourself if you are seriously going to undertake the project again.  Or purchase patterns online and keep them your own digital library. Karen also stores them as PDFs on her smart phone so she can access them when out and about. And be ruthless with all the free patterns you get give at shows.
  • Don’t buy too many craft books. Is it worth holding a whole book if you’re only going to undertake a 10th of the projects it contains? Libraries often have great craft books or arrange to swap with friends or within your local knitting or crochet group.

karen jars

  • Charity shops love receiving yarn so be honest with yourself – is it better to have your yarn languishing in a cupboard untouched or used by another crafter who has donated money to charity for the pleasure of using it.
  • Have a digital declutter on Twitter and Instagram of who you’re following – it can get overwhelming.
  • There are thousands of online patterns which show you things to make in order to use up with scrap yarn.